Every property should have a fire extinguisher but it must also be maintained. Keeping your fire extinguishers in tip top shape means that it will be ready when you need it. Proper equipment along with the correct fire extinguisher training, gives your business, your home, or your workplace, the best chance at averting disaster. We offer a fire extinguisher training video that will make sure your staff (or your family) is ready in case of a fire emergency.
Will a fire extinguisher work if expired? Technically it will work, however, by not inspecting the unit you are risking it not working properly when it is needed most.
Here, you’ll learn the warning signs of a faulty fire extinguisher, do fire extinguishers expire, how long a new extinguisher should last, what maintenance they need to protect your business from fires, and how you can check them. Want a fully functional fire extinguisher? Finally, if you are looking for a Fire Extinguisher Toolbox Talk we have a write up on that as well that you should check out. For now, let’s get started with fire extinguishers and expiration dates.
Table of Contents
How Long Should a Fire Extinguisher Last?
Depending on your type of fire extinguisher and how well you maintain it/how often you service it, they can last between 10 and 20 years. The average lifespan of fire extinguishers also depends on the manufacturer and the manufacturer’s recommendation. For example, the higher the quality, the more fire protection and shelf life it will have.
And how do I know if a fire extinguisher is expired? They come with expiration dates so you know when a new one is due.
Can You Find Out Their Age?
Inspect the canister – many fire extinguishers have the manufacture date somewhere on them near the expiration date. Knowing how often a fire extinguisher should be inspected is step one in keeping these units in tip top shape.
Once you’ve found this, the general rules are that you can use it up until then if you subject it to proper maintenance and care. It will also let you know when it will need to be replaced.
When looking for the expiration date, there are a number of places you can look on the fire extinguisher:
- On the body area just before the base.
- Around the upper body/neck of the model.
- In the center of the body.
- On the tamper seal.
- On the silver head of the extinguisher where the handle connects to the body.
How Long Do Fire Extinguishers Last Continued…
We’ve spoken about how long they should last and how you can find out the age of a unit, now we go into the more complicated part…
While extinguishers have expiration dates and will become inoperable over time, their date is not strict. They don’t have a timeline that must be adhered to, and once they’ve passed the date they’re old news. Again, it all depends on the type of unit you have.
For example, a portable fire extinguisher won’t expire in a generic sense, certain units will just become outdated due to advancements in technology and regulatory changes. People should follow expert advice on how long they should use their unit for. Varying from different manufacturers, and depending on further factors, look out for:
- What type of extinguisher is it (pressurized water extinguishers manufactured, portable extinguishers, etc.)?
- Is it a disposable extinguisher or a rechargeable one?
- How much maintenance/repair/replace work has it had done over time?
- When was it built?
- What are the replacements recommendations from the manufacturer?
A lot of extinguisher manufacturers will agree with the 10 to 20 years lifespan statement. You should also take note of your local fire department and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They have two guidelines that every business owner or homeowner should be aware of.
Rechargeable Fire Extinguishers
These fire extinguishers should be recharged every 6 years to ensure they are properly pressurized and in fully working order.
Disposable Fire Extinguishers
These fire extinguishers should be replaced around every 12 years while also undergoing regular inspection to make sure they are not broken and can fight fires effectively.
Be aware that even after fire extinguishers expire, they will still function. However, some of their key components may not be as effective in an emergency. The NFPA and manufacturers across the US also require regular internal maintenance testing by professional fire protection organizations to ensure canisters and the units funct8ion at 100%.
When Should You Replace Your Fire Extinguisher?
It’s best to consult with an expert that will constitute professional advice if you have any concerns about your fire extinguisher. However, a certain amount of critical signs will let you know if you need to get a new unit:
- The fire extinguishers were made by a manufacturer that is no longer in business.
- The pressure gauge is faulty.
- The hose or nozzle is blocked or deteriorating.
- The locking pin is not sealed or is missing.
- The fire extinguisher has a broken handle.
- The maintenance record is outdated.
How to Tell If Your Fire Extinguisher Needs Replacing
Due to there being no official expiry dates even though units will have things written on them, it can be hard to determine whether your unit just needs a recharge or whether it needs to be replaced.
To have the best idea, you should regularly look for degradation signs. There are three things you can notice that will let you know your fire extinguisher has come to the end of its life:
Corrosion and Rust
Fire extinguishers stored in humid and corrosive locations will inevitably rust. This will cause some of the unit’s most important parts to break or be past the point of repair. Ensuring your extinguisher has a regular inspection will provide you with information about whether you need a new one.
You can contact your local fire department to service your extinguisher, and perform any necessary jobs like a recharge, etc.
It Fails Its Hydrostatic Test
Hydrostatic testing is when the integrity of the extinguisher’s cylinder is tested. This mechanism is under constant pressure, so if an extinguisher fails this test after inspection, it will be deemed unsafe to use and should be taken out of action.
Just like a fire extinguisher’s life span, the contents and chemicals inside do not technically expire. However, this doesn’t mean your canister will function properly. This is because the extinguishers can become depressurized, causing them to be inoperable. This stops them from being recharged or people opting to replace them.
The Zone Colors
The right fire extinguisher will point to the green area on the pressure gauge, which means it is safe to use. If the unit changes to the red or yellow zone, you should exercise caution.
The green zone means the pressure is normal. The yellow zone means the pressure is too high, and there’s a risk of explosion or flames. Finally, the red zone on the gauge means the pressure of the dry chemicals is low, which suggests there’s a possibility that it can’t be sprayed.
What to Do with Fire Extinguishers That are Beyond Fixing
If your extinguisher is beyond fixing and cannot fight fires anymore, you can’t just dispose of it in the bin like you would with general waste. There are various steps you need to take to make sure the extinguisher is safely disposed of. Pressurized chemicals like carbon dioxide can be incredibly hazardous when not handled properly, and proper disposal will ensure safety.
For example, if your model still has powder in it, you will need to speak to your local fire department to see if they will perform a removal service. If not, you’ll need to find the nearest hazardous waste disposal registered site.
If your extinguisher is empty, make sure you remove all of the pressure by squeezing the handle and removing the head to show there is nothing in it. You can then take it to the closest steel recycling facility.
Be Safe — Follow Proper Extinguisher Maintenance Guidelines
Now that the “do fire extinguishers expire” question has been answered, it’s time to fight fires safely. An extinguisher that successfully puts out fires is one that’s well maintained, regularly recharged, and generally just looked after. Take a look at some of our other safety videos to keep yourself as protected as possible.